HARTLEPOOL United star Brad Walker admits this season was “average” by any standards but insists the club will be stronger for it.
After a slow start to the season, which saw Pools go six Sky Bet League Two matches before picking up their first win, Colin Cooper’s side then went on an impressive run of form which saw them flirt with the play-offs.
Sadly, the young squad ran out of steam and after a run of six-straight defeats towards the end of the season, Pools finished down in 19th – in the end just three points off the relegation zone.
The players themselves – including 18-year-old Walker – are under no illusions that last season wasn’t good enough.
A frustrated and angry Cooper made it crystal clear after the season finale, a 2-0 home defeat to Exeter City at Victoria Park, that he wouldn’t accept second best.
Walker, who will return to pre-season training with the rest of the squad on July 1, is honest enough to admit it was an average season overall.
But he believes the young Pools camp will be better off for the many ups and downs experienced over the past 10 months.
Billingham-born Walker said: “It has been an average season overall I think.
“It has had its highs and lows but I think the club itself will definitely go on to better things next year.
“We are just a young squad and for many of the players it has been there first year as a professional footballer.
“We have survived in League Two so I think that will make us stronger from the experience.
“Hopefully we will now go on and kick on.”
Despite having only recently turned 18, Walker has firmly established himself as a first-team regular since being promoted from the youth set up at Pools last summer, playing more than 40 games for the first team last season.
Walker though still sees himself as the young professional that he is and praised the older players at the club for helping him through his maiden season.
The Young Player of the Year reserved special praise for holding midfielder Simon Walton, who Walker played alongside for much of the season.
Walton, a former Leeds United, QPR and Plymouth Argyle midfielder, was released from the club when the retained list was announced at the start of May.
But despite Walton moving on to pastures new after two seasons at Victoria Park, Walker is thankful for his help and advice in recent months.
“I still feel as though like one of the young lads because I am still young,” Walker told SportMail.
“The youth players will go off and do different training sessions, like when the first team are doing recovery sessions.
“Sometimes I think I still need to be out there with them doing that but to be fair the older lads have been really good and helped me a lot.
“They offer me a lot of support and advice, especially Simon [Walton] who taught me a lot and put me where I needed to be and put me in my place.”